|Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Joe Staton
Inks: Bob Smith
|Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Ben Oda
Synopsis: Plastic Man and Woozy Winks are asked by the National Bureau of Investigation to make sure the snitch Carlton “Yellowbelly” Canary arrives in police custody safely. After a harrowing moment aboard a train, the two complete their mission — but it’s still not enough for Woozy to become an official NBI agent.
|Script: Paul Levitz
Pencils: Steve Ditko
Inks: Romeo Tanghal
|Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Gaspar Saladino
Synopsis: After saving a starship from certain doom, the new galactic hero known as Starman is invited inside by the devious Lord Oswin, who wants to discover how Starman is able to survive in space without a ship or protective suit. After providing a demonstration of his powers, Starman escapes with Oswin’s prisoner, who becomes his ally.
Prime Cut Panels: No fancy, long-winded exposition here, gang — let’s just bask in the pure Ditko magic together.
Prime Cut Panels: And here’s a page from the eight-page Plastic Man tale at the front of this comic. Pencilling work is by Joe Staton, who really shines in this assignment, perhaps second only to Jack Cole himself when it comes to understanding the visual absurdity that’s at the heart of Plastic Man’s appeal. I mean, how can you not love the idea of an entire train full of hired killers wearing every type of disguise (including wigs, dresses and a priest’s clothing) and somehow still looking like hired killers?
Random Thoughts: One of DC’s longest-running titles, Adventure Comics celebrated the start of the 1980s with the debut of two brand-new ongoing series. After the cancellation of his own title in 1977, Plastic Man returned to share a book with Paul Levitz’s and Steve Ditko’s Starman, whose first appearance takes place in this issue (giving his story’s title a double meaning).
Plastic Man’s adventure is partially told in flashback, as shadowy figures at the NBI relate the story of Plastic Man’s origins (for the benefit of any new comic fans picking up the book) before getting down to the business of deciding what to do with him given how badly he failed his assignment to bring in noted stool pigeon Carlton Canary. (Sidebar: why do we call snitches “stool pigeons” but then say they “sing like a canary” when they’re talking to the cops? Wouldn’t they sing like pigeons instead? Wait a second — can pigeons sing?) Except — not quite! Because as the NBI bosses are about to dismiss him from the bureau, Plastic Man shows up with Canary safe and sound.
It’s a fun return to form for the malleable manhunter, even if it’s never explained how Plastic Man lost his man in the first place, or how Canary was recovered in time for the dramatic reveal. But that’s a Plastic Man story for you; things just happen, and you learn to go with the flow. Or be — dare I say it — flexible.
The Starman story is so clearly part of that post-Star Wars boom in space opera comics that I’m a little surprised there aren’t comedy-relief robots in the wings. That’s not to say it’s a bad story; in fact, it’s one of the better ones of these types that I’ve seen, and this chapter is a good start for what promises to be a great addition to DC’s cosmos-spanning heroes.
Levitz and Ditko keep their cards close to their chests, revealing little about the source of Starman’s powers, how he happens to know so much about “imperial secrets,” and why he brought Jediah Rikane home to meet his mentor named, well, Mn’Torr. Like the old-fashioned serials that inspired Star Wars, “First Encounter” moves fast and gives away just enough of the plot to make you want to see what comes next. Plus it keeps the hallowed “goatee = evil” tradition alive. Can’t ask for much more than that.
The challenge: Can I review a month’s worth of DC books from January 1980 in under a month?